Judge will not drop Durham case against Clinton lawyer Sussmann

A federal judge on Wednesday refused to dismiss Special Counsel John Durham’s case against former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI while hawking a later debunked theory linking Donald Trump to Russia.

US District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled that Sussmann must make his case to a jury – declining to toss the single false statements charge against him on technical grounds.

Sussmann met with then-FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016 and allegedly told him he wasn’t sharing internet data about Trump on behalf of a client, when in fact he was working for the Clinton campaign and Rodney Joffe, a tech executive accused or seeking to impress senior Democrats into offering him a top cybersecurity job if Clinton was elected president.

Sussmann’s tip involved apparent digital links between the Trump Organization and Moscow’s Alfa Bank. Further review by experts indicated the supposed smoking-gun data was likely just the result of junk email.

John Durham
Special Counsel John Durham is bringing a case against Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman for allegedly lying to the FBI.
AP

Sussmann’s legal team urged the judge to dismiss the case by arguing that his alleged lie was immaterial to any government action.

But Cooper wrote, “As the Special Counsel argues, it is at least possible that statements made to law enforcement prior to an investigation could materially influence the later trajectory of the investigation. Sussmann offers no legal authority to the contrary. ”

Cooper added that “while Sussmann is correct that certain statements might be so peripheral or unimportant to a relevant agency decision or function to be immaterial… the Court is unable to make that determination as to this alleged statement before hearing the government evidence. Any such decision must therefore wait until trial. ”

The charge against Sussmann carries a statutory maximum of 5 years in prison.

As part of Durham’s review of the FBI’s Russia investigation, former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty in 2020 to falsifying records submitted to the federal surveillance court by doctoring an email to secure an extension of a 2016 surveillance warrant targeting Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Clinesmith was sentenced to probation.

In November, Durham charged Igor Danchenko with lying to the FBI about his contributions to the Steele dossier – a compilation of anti-Trump opposition research and salacious rumors funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The dossier was used to support Page’s surveillance and heavily influenced public perception of Trump’s relationship with Russia.

FBI official Peter Strzok launched the initial federal investigation of possible Trump links to Russia in July 2016 after Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos allegedly told an Australian diplomat that Russia had damaging information on Clinton. Strzok, it later emerged, swapped anti-Trump messages with his mistress, then-FBI attorney Lisa Page.

Robert Mueller
Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence former President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election.
Getty Images

After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017, a review by Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence that Trump colluded with Russia to win the presidency.

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